Joshua Heath: In Search of a Better Populism

SCV Voices: Guest Commentary
SCV Voices: Guest Commentary

As anyone who follows politics nowadays knows, populism is all the rage. Voters are angry, sick and tired of the old ways, stale ideas, and inept performance of the establishment.

They want war on the elites who have stolen their country away and transformed it from a land of opportunity into something dark and barren.

As an ideology, populism broadly comes in two flavors. On the right, conservative populists rail against the cultural elites, the hyper-educated guardians of our country’s morality and values. These folks run the cable media, our newspapers, Hollywood, and the arts, and through their influence, arrogantly communicate to the country what is and isn’t an acceptable point of view.

Support traditional marriage for biblical reasons? You’re as wicked as the Ku Klux Klan.

Question Black Lives Matter, feminism, or any social justice movement? You’re a closet bigot.

Hold exactly the same views as big-shot actors and journalists themselves? You’re a member of the enlightened class, a hero worthy of celebration.

To these arrogant figures, conservative populists say: you’re destroying America. And they are absolutely correct. Tolerance of diverse points of view, a respect for free speech, the ability to love your neighbor while disagreeing with him — these notions are fundamental to a decent society and disregarded by the cultural elites every day.

God bless those on the right with the courage to stand up for them.

On the left, liberal populists largely disregard the arrogance of the media and Hollywood and instead wage war against the economic elite. They seek to defeat the small government ideology of the wealthy, that leaves every man for himself with nothing but his own bootstraps, and instead fight for a social safety net that protects the vulnerable, rewards the hard-working, and gives every citizen a second chance when they need it.

This ethos is best represented by the program of Sen. Bernie Sanders. In his world, the young, hard-working student will be given free college tuition, so he can just focus on his academics and not have to work three jobs to get by.

The waitress with an asthmatic son and no health insurance won’t have to worry about paying for her child’s care — a single-payer government system will pick up the costs. And the wealthy will be asked to pay for these policies, because that’s what must be done in order to build a humane country.

Both styles of populism make a meaningful contribution, for both the cultural and economic elites are tumors on American society. The former tries to control what people think, has little respect for alternative points of view, and tries to advance its agenda through bullying, not kind, constructive debate. The latter threatens the very promise of America itself, with its insatiable appetite for wealth and inability to understand the need for progressive policies to heal our nation’s wounds

It is high time for a new social movement that combines each ideology. This movement would seek to secure prosperity for all by implementing the sort of safety net our citizens deserve. In addition, it would try to create a more humane, tolerant culture, one in which those with minority points of view are respected.

Advocates of traditional marriage, abortion restrictions, and abstinence would no longer receive ridicule and contempt, but instead be seen as moral human beings who simply think differently than the left.

This would be a true populism, one that seeks to lift up the common man, while respecting his beliefs, principles and point of view.

Its underlying premise? Every human being is valuable, worthy of the material dignity needed to stay healthy — food, shelter, health care — and the acceptance from their fellows needed to ensure a contented mind and soul. It would be a fight for a society structured by love, inclusive of all, from the campus radical working for revolution in Berkeley to the employee in Youngstown pulling overtime at the factory.

Love, from the redwood forests to the gulf stream waters, all across these United States.

Joshua Heath is a Valencia resident and a political science student at UCLA. He has served two terms as a delegate to the California Democratic Party. Democratic Voices runs every Tuesday in The Signal.

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